An understanding of vocabulary is crucial if the learner is to gain meaning from text.  There is a difference between oral vocabulary and reading vocabulary.  Oral vocabulary refers to the words which the child uses in speaking and listening.  Reading vocabulary refers to the words the learner recognises in print.  Children enter school with a large oral vocabulary, estimated to be about 6,000 words.  The average high school pupil knows about 45,000 words by Years 11 (Stahl, 2004).

Vocabulary can be developed through both direct and indirect instruction.  Indirect instruction includes the student’s own reading and oral language practice/interaction.  Direct instruction involves teaching words using a range of word-learning strategies. 

“Most words require 20 exposures in context before an adequate grasp of their meanings is acquired.” (McKenna, 2004)

The National Reading Panel (2000) concluded that computer programs are helpful in teaching vocabulary.  It also noted that the process of teaching vocabulary before reading the text is helpful.  Note:  this can be achieved by creating pre-reading, customized vocabulary lists in Steps before tackling the printed passage.

How does Steps develop Vocabulary?

The range of activities in Steps ensures that every word which is taught as a reading/spelling word is also seen and used in context, often in a variety of ways.  The following activities specifically develop vocabulary:

Choose the Word – sight vocabulary, using/choosing words in context
Sentence Builder – sight vocabulary, sequencing, using words in context, syntactic awareness
Word Search – sight vocabulary, visual recognition, visual discrimination, visual sequencing, using words in context (when doing printed cloze activity)
Homophones – Lists in Wordlist section (all activities)
Pick the Word – Homophones activity which develops language awareness and vocabulary
Everyday Topics Wordbank – 1,000 words divided into topic lists (all activities provided for every list)
Personal Lists – ability to enter lists of words relevant to each individual learner, enabling teachers/parents to pre-teach vocabulary and reading words.  Learners can see and use the words in a variety of contexts, utilising all of the above activities.
Stargame – printable set of materials which can be used for games requiring the learner to generate their own sentence for each word.
Four in a Row (game) – homophones option
Word study lists, including prefixes, suffixes and word roots


“Learning, as a language based activity, is fundamentally and profoundly dependent on vocabulary knowledge. Learners must have access to the meanings of words that teachers, or their surrogates (e.g., other adults, books, films, etc.), use to guide them into contemplating known concepts in novel ways (i.e. to learn something new).”   (Baker, Simmons, & Kame'enui, 1998) See References
“The importance of vocabulary knowledge to school success, in general, and reading comprehension, in particular, is widely documented.” (Becker, 1977; Anderson & Nagy, 1991; see References)
“Children who enter with limited vocabulary knowledge grow much more discrepant over time from their peers who have rich vocabulary knowledge.” (Baker, Simmons, & Kame'enui, 1997; see References).
Ogle, D. (1986). K-W-L: A teaching model that develops active reading of expository text. The Reading Teacher, 39, 564-570.
Rayner, K. & Pollatsek, A. (1989). The psychology of reading. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.
Simmons, D. C., & Kame'enui, E. J. (1990). The effect of task alternatives on vocabulary knowledge: A comparison of students with and without learning disabilities. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 23, 291-297, 316.
Simmons, D. & Kame'enui, E. (1999) Optimize. Eugene, OR: College of Education, Institute for Development of Educational Achievement, University of Oregon.